Are Laboratories in the Chemical Industry Safe? How Chemical Inventory Management Can Help

Digital Solutions, Lab Safety

chemical inventory management
Chemical laboratories can be dangerous places to work. Consider our suggestions to make your laboratory safer
Image Source: National Cancer Institute via Wikimedia Commons

Do you feel safe at work? Although some scientists in the chemical manufacturing industry would probably answer in the affirmative, the facts paint a different picture. According to statistics, approximately 5,300 injuries occurred within this industry in 2012. These injuries included sprains, strains, fractures, chemical inhalation, burns and many others. In total, these injuries cost employers approximately $400 million in lost productivity.

Although this may be fewer than injuries in other industries, it is still 5,300 too many. To help laboratories in the chemical manufacturing industry reduce the number of workplace injuries that occur each year, we recommend the following key steps:

  • Create a Culture of Safety – Most organization underestimate the power of culture and environment to manage human behavior. I learned the power of this firsthand during the early part of my career while working at the Corporate Office of Walmart in Bentonville, Arkansas. The company claims to be the low price leader, but actually backs that up by trying to reduce costs across the entire supply chain. I saw proof of this myself when meetings I attended included discussions about helping suppliers reduce the amount and type of packaging they used in order to bring down costs even further. Similarly, lab directors should focus on a culture of safety to help improve workplace safety. This can be accomplished by encouraging all employees to “observe and report” safety violations, and refusing to retaliate against employees when reports occur.
  • Perform a Job Hazard Analysis – A job hazard analysis (JHA) consists of a walk-through of the laboratory in order to identify any possible hazards that could cause a workplace injury. This includes tools, chemicals, equipment and other hazards within the laboratory environment. The details of the analysis should be documented including any corrective action taken to fix or mitigate potential hazards.
  • Establish Training Programs – Most people want to be safe at work, but may not know what to do to prevent workplace injuries. The best way to ensure that everyone understands the importance of workplace safety is to create training programs and encourage employees to focus on safety. This ensures that everyone is on the same page and working to make the laboratory safer.
  • Ensure the Proper Use of Safety Equipment – My wife says that she would rather not work in a chemical laboratory because personal protective equipment like goggles and face protection are not fashionable. Well, they really are not designed to be fashionable, but rather functional. Management should mandate and support the use of protective equipment through both training and regular safety checks. This can help ensure that all employees are using the appropriate equipment to remain as safe as possible in the laboratory.
  • Implement a Chemical Inventory Management System – If they are not handled appropriately, chemicals can pose a significant risk to laboratory personnel. Proper handling should include tagging chemicals with the appropriate labels and knowing specifically where they are stored within the laboratory. The best way to ensure that all chemicals are labeled and tracked is to implement a chemical inventory management system. These systems use barcoding technology to ensure that chemicals are managed and tracked properly. They also help in the storage and access of safety data sheet information.

Although there are elements of a laboratory within the chemical manufacturing industry that are inherently dangerous, there are things that laboratory managers can do to reduce or mitigate this risk like encouraging a culture of safety and implementing a chemical inventory management system.

For more information regarding the BIOVIA CISPro and how it can help your laboratory environment be safer, please visit our website today.

3 thoughts on “Are Laboratories in the Chemical Industry Safe? How Chemical Inventory Management Can Help

  1. I think it’s ironic that in high school they are very strict about chemical safety (every chemistry class has an eyewash station, goggles, etc.) but in the actual workplace there are a number of chemical injuries! It’s all about being careful with what you’re working with.

  2. I agree safety is very important, unfortunately even with the best training programs, when people are rushed they cut corners and make mistakes or ignore time consuming protocols. An important addition is to make sure that safety is stressed before speed. While it is important to get everything done, it should never come at the cost of safety because the small gain of completing something a day or two sooner are more than lost with the losses associated with a single accident. I think that goes back to the culture of safety. The worst case always needs to be considered so that the risks can be managed and accidents avoided.

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